By Jane Nishimwe
Joyeuse Musabimana is a 19-year-old Rwandan who is competing for the title of Miss East Africa in The Netherlands. Her goal is to challenge the common narrative of Rwanda and shed light on women’s rights. In this interview, Jambonews talks to Musabimana about her views.
Jambonews: Why are you participating in the competition for Miss East Africa The Netherlands?
Joyeuse Musabimana: I received a message from someone who thought I would be a suitable candidate. I did some research on the competition first, because I am not a big fan of pageants. Often, participants are being portrayed as beautiful and dumb and I do not like that. But then I also saw that they want to help women in Africa and that spoke to me. So I joined because I wanted to highlight the issues that are going on inside Rwanda.
Jambonews: When interviewed by newspaper Metro, you said women are being treated like dogs in Rwanda. What do you base that on?
Joyeuse Musabimana: I base that on news I see on Rwandan websites, on what Rwandan women say about how they are being treated. For example, there is a large group of women who live on the streets. Many of them are young women who have lost their parents and who have nobody to help them, not even the government. That’s unacceptable for me. The fact that there are so many women in the Rwandan parliament makes this case even stranger. I do not understand why they are not doing something about that. To make matters worse, a lot of these women also carry children with them. It is not safe for them to be outside in the dark, a few of them even got impregnated through rape.
Jambonews: You also said Kagame has started a genocide against the Hutu ever since his party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, took over power in 1994. What made you to draw this conclusion?
Joyeuse Musabimana: There are a lot of people that did research on the genocide of 1994, many of them being foreigners like Dutch journalist Anneke Verbraeken. I also did my own research. You hear a lot of sides of the story and eventually you want to know the truth. Finally, I came to understand that there have been two types of genocide in Rwanda. The first was against the Tutsi in April 1994. The second was against the Hutu and started a year and half later in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Both sides were wrong, because the violence made Rwandan people hate each other and not treat each other as normal human beings that should be living together harmoniously, like in the beginning. The genocide that killed a lot of Hutu was out of anger, anger that is understandable but also anger that could have been prevented by the RPF, but instead the government made people go against each other.
Jambonews: Being born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and having never returned to Rwanda, how did you become so involved for Rwanda?
Joyeuse Musabimana: I have family that lives there. I also follow the news of what is going on inside the country. In particular, I followed the story of Victoire Ingabire, someone whom I have known personally. When I heard that she was in prison, I was shocked. Things like these make you think about your roots and I realised that somehow I feel connected to my country. It makes me cry to see and hear that people living in Rwanda are still hurt after all they have been through.
Jambonews: What is your relationship with Victoire Ingabire?
Joyeuse Musabimana: Before she went to Rwanda, we would visit her family. We were friends with her children, so we saw her a lot of times. When she left, the bond stayed and we tried to help the best way we could. Our families are still close.
Jambonews: Why did you choose to speak on Rwandan issues in Dutch media instead of returning to Rwanda and fighting your battle there?
Joyeuse Musabimana: In my opinion, I am too young to go there. I am afraid that they might not take me serious. The fact that it is somehow an unknown country to me makes me scared. I do not even know what place to visit and what roads not to take. I see my candidacy in this pageant as a small step towards the direction that I want to go; making sure that Rwandan citizens have something to say about their country.
Jambonews: What would you do if you became Miss East Africa The Netherlands?
Joyeuse Musabimana: I would make sure people are aware of what is happening in Rwanda. Especially in Europe, it is like they are pushing the issues away. The shortcomings of the government and the continuous violation of women’s rights are subjects of huge importance that are likely to produce an ugly debate, but these issues are real and they are happening. I say, we should not avoid them. But also, the Rwandan people have the right to decide how the country should look like and what the country needs. The citizens should be talking to each other about this matter. Democracy is the key.
Jambonews: What do you think is the future for Rwanda?
Joyeuse Musabimana: For now I really do not know if the situation is going to change. If it does, I hope it changes positively for the Rwandan people, so that their voices will be heard. Because Rwanda is for every citizen and all should have the same rights as the people in the parliament.